Wednesday, August 22, 2007

When children took centrestage

Madras Week celebrations finally took off in the KK Nagar-Vadapalani area. It was a first for Madras Week ever since the celebrations began in 2004. On August 20, Spring Into Reading, an English-activity centre in KK Nagar organised a scintillating performance of thudumbu attam (a folk drumming instrument) and a captivating storytelling session by Nandini Sridhar and mime artists Anbu and Shankar. The drummers set the stage for possible one of the best storytelling session held in this part of the city. The drummers and artists belong to an organisation called Unarvugal Dramatics based in Saligramam.

The stories, narrated in folk style, while touching upon the history of the Chennai and Tamil Nadu, held morals for children, such as the need to show magnanimity. Fifty children parading on stage in traditional dresses brought up the finale. It was almost like a beauty pageant for kids, with each one of them keen to show off what they had worn and ready to impress the audience with their performance.

The Vijaya Hall at Hotel Green Park was packed to capacity with parents and residents of the area. Many did not find seats during the performance by the children but enjoyed every bit of the show. Kudos to Binita, who runs Spring Into Reading, and her colleague Shrimathi, for pulling off something so grand in so short a time!

Present to motivate the artists and children were M.B. Nirmal, founder, Exnora International, R. Shankariah, former chief regional librarian, British Council, Dr Balambal, an expert in traditional games, and several senior residents in the area. Journalists from leading newspapers and the media were present. And their coverage of the event and other Madras Week programmes events have raised the celebrations to a much higher level than last year.

The staff at Hotel Green Park did a wonderful job of handling all the loose edges. Krishna Kumar Menon, general manager of the hotel, Ravi Kumar, Stephen and others in the team, well done! We look forward to your support in the coming years as well.

Earlier in the day, I visited the Ethiraj College with Meera Raghavendra Rao, once my professor at the Bhavan’s. About 40 students there put up a medley of folk and contemporary dance, and street theatre. Through their performances, they raised pertinent messages, including pointed references to public apathy regarding segregation and proper disposal of garbage. There was a detailed power-point presentation about Chennai and its neighbourhood. The auditorium was house full, and most of the students had taken time off from their study schedules and exams to participate in Madras Week celebrations. So heartening it was!

All they needed were words of appreciation and I was happy I had gone. Professors Shanthi and Sumathy, and secretary of the students’ council, Gargi Chatterji, deserve a round of applause for a job well done.

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